Protecting your home from wildfire is an ongoing endeavor

The spring wildfire season is delayed because of lingering snowstorms. However, homeowners should inspect their property to eliminate hazards that could lead to the can burn their homes and damage their property from spreading wildfires.

What a difference a year makes. Last March and April, an unusually warm spring produced temperatures over 70 degrees across much of northern Michigan. These unusually high temperatures quickly evaporated the snow cover and exposed dry vegetation on the ground of Michigan’s forests. The result was a longer and higher-risk wildfire season across many parts of the state.

This year, however, much of northern Michigan’s forests are still snow covered and temperatures have been quite cold – delaying the onset of spring. But regardless of the weather, Michigan State University Extension warns northern Michigan homeowners that they still need to prepare themselves for the spring wildfire season. Regardless of the weather, wildfire prevention is an ongoing activity throughout the year. And just like the climatic seasons of the year, there will always be a wildfire “season” in Michigan.

So while state and national forest firefighters are preparing their equipment to extinguish spring wildfires, what are you doing to protect your home and personal property from possible wildfire damage?

The MSU Extension Firewise Program offers homeowners the following tips on minimizing the risk of wildfire damage around their homes and personal

Some safety practices are simple and easy to implement. For example, residents can reduce the risk of their home catching fire by modifying their homes and immediate surroundings (see graphic). By just clearing a space around the home and removing combustible materials within that area can greatly reduce wildfire threat. A fuel break can be created around all buildings and should be at least 30 feet wide, with more width on the downhill side of a slope. Even something as simple as cleaning out gutters and eaves of leaves and removing debris off of the roof can prevent an ember from igniting the roof of a home.

There are also “firewise” landscaping techniques that homeowners can use around their homes to reduce risk. These involve changing, reducing or eliminating the amount or type of fuel near your home. In wildfire-prone areas, clear a 3-foot strip around the outside of each building, right down to sand or gravel (mineral soil). This cuts down on the threat of a surface fire burning across the strip and reaching the building. If you absolutely need to mulch this strip, use nonflammable types of mulch such as rocks, gravel or pea-stone. Away from the house, keep a green lawn or install a rock garden – both are also good fuel breaks and keep flames from reaching your home on the ground. Therefore, if there is not adequate rainfall in the early spring, water your lawn and keep it cut as green, actively growing vegetation does not burn very easily.

Trees in the 30-foot fuel break around your home should have all branches removed up to a height of 6 to 10 feet to prevent ground fires from “laddering” up into tree crowns. Typically, heavy winter snowstorms can cause branches to lean downwards toward the ground or break off completely – thus adding to the wildfire hazard on your property. Thus, homeowners should be especially vigilant to remove any branches that could cause wildfires to easily move up into their tree crowns. For more information, visit the national Firewise website.

These wildfire safety protection measures and others are illustrated in the following graphic attached to this article.

For more information, extension bulletin E2831, Protecting Your Michigan home from Wildfire can be purchased from the MSU Extension Bookstore.

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